It may have been im­prob­a­ble, but it’s Pres­i­dent Trump

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - David Shrib­man Colum­nist David M. Shrib­man is ex­ec­u­tive editor of the Post-Gazette (dshrib­man@post-gazette.com, 412 263-1890). Fol­low him on Twit­ter at Shrib­manPG.

More than a quar­ter-cen­tury ago, in another elec­tion year, the Los An­ge­les Dodgers’ star Kirk Gib­son hit a walkoff home run in the first game of the World Series. “In a year that has been so im­prob­a­ble,” the Dodgers’ iconic an­nouncer Vin Scully said in an un­for­get­table tele­vi­sion riff in the fall of 1988, “the im­pos­si­ble has hap­pened.”

So it was Tues­day night, when Man­hat­tan busi­ness­man Don­ald J. Trump -- a po­lit­i­cal out­sider, pos­sessed of daunt­ing am­bi­tion, au­dac­ity and an acute sense of the Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal cli­mate -emerged as the win­ner of a rau­cous pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

An Amer­i­can orig­i­nal -- a casino and real es­tate mag­nate with an un­canny abil­ity to read the pub­lic mood and an unerring abil­ity to dis­cern his ri­vals’ vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties -- Trump now takes on his big­gest task.

From the start, Trump bel­lowed that he was de­ter­mined to make Amer­ica great again, a theme that was ridiculed by his ri­vals even as it helped him tri­umph over them. Today, as pres­i­dent-elect, he must re­deem great hopes, even as his elec­tion stirred great mis­giv­ings among Amer­i­can al­lies abroad and among about half the na­tion that voted for for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton.

Even had Trump not pre­vailed Tues­day, he fash­ioned a re­mark­able ac­com­plish­ment, skew­ing the po­lit­i­cal cal­cu­lus, up­end­ing all the as­sump­tions of Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal life, re­shap­ing the pro­files of the two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties and al­ter­ing all the con­ven­tions of po­lit­i­cal com­port­ment.

In de­feat, he would have been an im­por­tant fac­tor in shap­ing Amer­i­can pol­i­tics for the rest of the decade and into the next. In tri­umph, he is a for­mi­da­ble, his­toric fig­ure.

Some­times vul­gar, al­ways vol­u­ble, Trump ran against the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment of the Repub­li­can Party, against the cus­toms of po­lit­i­cal life, and against the prin­ci­pal el­e­ments of Amer­i­can life -- big com­pa­nies, big me­dia, above all big tra­di­tions. He took on the banks, the gov­ern­ment bu­reau­cracy, the influence of cap­i­tal lob­by­ists, and the pre­vail­ing ethos of es­tab­lish­ment pol­i­tics.

The elec­tion laid bare the coun­try’s raw di­vi­sions of race, class and creed. Rus­sia, Mex­ico and NATO look to Amer­ica war­ily. Afghanistan and Iraq are un­set­tled, ISIS is not con­quered. Oba­macare’s fu­ture is un­cer­tain.

Trump has had teams work­ing for weeks on the tran­si­tion, but in fact part of the tran­si­tion is per­sonal -- his tran­si­tion from can­di­date to pres­i­dent-elect, from what for­mer Gov. Mario M. Cuomo of New York used to call the po­etry of cam­paign­ing to the prose of gov­ern­ing, from critic with­out re­spon­si­bil­ity to what John F. Kennedy, in the mor­ti­fy­ing wake of the Bay of Pigs fi­asco of 1961, called “the re­spon­si­ble of­fi­cer of the gov­ern­ment.”

Now, flush with vic­tory but fac­ing fear­some re­spon­si­bil­ity, his first task is to cal­i­brate his am­bi­tion. “If you choose too am­bi­tious an agenda, you’ll likely be called a fail­ure,” said John H. Su­nunu, chief of staff for Ge­orge H.W. Bush. “But if it’s not am­bi­tious enough, you’ll be seen as a light­weight. You have to hit the sweet spot.”

With in­stinct and in­tu­ition for the sweet spot, Trump first won the Repub­li­can pri­mary, then pre­vailed in the gen­eral elec­tion -- and now is poised to cre­ate his own White House staff and ex­ec­u­tive-branch ad­min­is­tra­tion. Each step along the way was im­prob­a­ble, even con­sid­ered im­pos­si­ble.

No longer. The man who vowed to make Amer­ica great again now faces great chal­lenges. But against all the ex­perts and all the ex­pec­ta­tions he fash­ioned a great up­set, a great come­back and a great achieve­ment.

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